Landmark Changes in Islamic Divorces in the Eyes of Michigan Family Courts

Many Michigan family law attorneys were stunned last week when the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed a decision out of Wayne County Third Circuit Court ruling that a man was required to pay his ex-wife $50,000 as promised in the former couple’s Islamic marriage certificate. While counsel for the ex-husband argued in his appeal that the Wayne County judge “exceeded her authority” by deciding on what has been traditionally been considered a religious issue, the Court of Appeals upheld the Circuit Court’s ruling, stating that the judge was entitled to apply neutral principals of contract law within the jurisdiction of family court. 
The $50,000 represented a payment of what is called “mahr” under the principles of the Islamic faith. Mahr is “gift of money or property that must be made by a man to the woman he marries,” according to Black’s Law Dictionary, which the Court of Appeals opinion cited. While the vast majority of Circuit Court judges within the realm of family court have long been hesitant to recognize promises made under religious tenements as binding in law, the Appellate Court’s affirmation of one Wayne County Judge’s decision to tackle the matter now likely set binding legal precedent for all future Michigan divorces where mahr is at issue. And while many attorneys predict this matter will soon be brought to the Michigan Supreme Court’s attention for a number of reasons, a published opinion by the Court of Appeals is indeed binding precedent, or valid law, in the meantime. 
However, it’s important to note that an enforcement of a mahr payment may not effect the overall distribution of property award as much as one may initially suppose.
While the Circuit Court in this case ruled that the husband was required to pay his ex-wife the $50,000, the court also found subsequent spousal support payments to the wife (also traditionally called alimony) to be unnecessary. As the Appellate Court stated, “[a]s the trial court correctly noted, the property awarded to the parties is a factor that should be considered in deciding whether to award spousal support…[i]t is also notable that the trial court’s reasoning in this regard favored plaintiff because it led to the trial court’s decision that plaintiff was not required to pay spousal support.”
Southeast Michigan has the highest population of Arabic communities outside the Middle East. Family Law attorneys at the Law Offices of Joumana Kayrouz are sensitive to this point and keep themselves appraised of rule of law that effects these and other communities. Call our offices today to schedule a free consultation if you have questions about this or any other divorce issue. We also can provide Arabic translators if necessary! 

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January 17, 2020

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